stories

When The Shogun Awoke - Chapter 5 (all)

The sixth year of Showa: the conflict of interests inherent in capitalism and the political situation in China gradually created favorable conditions for Japan's invasion of Manchuria. In those times those who advocated military expansion most passionately were mid-ranking army officers who belonged to the Cherryblossom Club. The left gained strength from this trend and Japan slowly embarked, not knowing what would ensue, on a long road which led to the bottomless bog of the Sino-Japanese war followed by an act of lunacy: the Pacific War.
One day in late July about two months before the Lukouchiao Incident, Kinjiro was languishing in the blazing westerly sun immersed in reading newspapers.
"It seems that China's revolutionary movement has spread to the Manchurian warlords," he muttered to himself. "This one called Chang Tso-lin seems like a pretty gutsy guy."
From the hallway came the sound of footsteps. Several people were approaching his room.
Kinjiro became alert, looked around the room, sat up straight and stared at the door. It was immediately clear to him that the footsteps belonged to newspaper reporters. He guessed that the chief-of-staff himself was showing some four or five reporters around.
The chief-of-staff opened the door and nodded at Kinjiro. "Hello, Mr. Ashihara. I've brought some newspaper reporters.
Kinjiro felt a bit tense, sensing something ominous because the doctor addressed him as 'Mr. Ashihara' instead of 'Mr. Shogun'. The doctor always called him Mr. Shogun in front of reporters.
The five reporters entered the room and looked at Kinjiro. A gaze of curiosity certainly, but not the usual one he was so accustomed to receiving from reporters. Nor was it the timid kind which a normal person would cast upon a mentally ill.
"Mr. Ashihara." said the chief-of-staff in a deliberately serious tone. "I have told the press about your recovery.
"Well..." said Kinjiro dumbfounded. "Is that so?"
Why? asked Kinjiro in his mind. What made him decide to finally anounce my recovery, now of all times?
"When was the recovery confirmed?" asked one of the reporters.
"Yesterday," said the chief-of-staff winking at Kinjiro. "Mr. Ashihara was suffering from mania, the disorder that makes one hyperactive. But now that he's become mellow with age, it disappeared by itself."
"Then you'll be leaving the hospital soon?" asked a second reporter eyeing both the doctor and Kinjiro, dividing his gaze equally.
"Does Mr. Shogun have any intention of leaving the hospital?" a third reporter asked Kinjiro."Well..." he paused after a non-committal reply and then surmising it would be best to go along with the chief-of-staff, he resumed slowly. "If I were thrown out to the outside world, I would probably starve to death on the street. If I stay here I have a comfortable room of my own, a nurse, and what's more I can die in this splendid building."
The chief-of-staff nodded joyfully. "We, the hospital staff, would be sorry to lose him, who has been the face of our hospital for over fifty years. We intend to grant him permission to stay in this room as our special guest."
A fourth reporter who had been eyeing Kinjiro with a somewhat suspicious look asked him, "Do you have any religious belief, Mr. Shogun?"
"Religious belief?" He shook his head slightly. "Hum, religious belief..."
Kinjiro thought the reporter had doubts about his sanity which had now been made official.
"Hahahahahaha. To hell with religion! I'm above God." Kinjiro pointed at the setting sun outside the window. "That blazing Sun is my true identity."
The reporters bursted into a guaffaw.
"The fifty-year-old habit dies hard, it seems. An awesome remark," said the reporter to the chief-of-staff. He seemed to be convinced of Kinjiro's sanity.
"Although he doesn't show it, there is a cunning side to Mr. Shogun," said the chief-of-staff wiping off sweat from his face. "After all he has a better chance of remaining in this hospital if he shows symptoms of mental disorder from time to time."
"Come to think of it, his eyes remind me of those gleaming eyes of old Mr. Inukai Kido at public debates," said the fifth reporter.
Everyone agreed.
The reporters left the room.
Soon the chief-of-staff came back after seeing the reporters out. "I guess you were surprised by this sudden news. I didn't have time to let you know in advance because the idea of calling the press came to me suddenly." Forcing a smile, the chief-of-staff sat in front of Kinjiro.
Kinjiro kept silent.
"In the next few days you'll read long articles about your recovery in the five papers those reporters are affiliated with. What a relief! I feel like I've taken a huge burden off my back. It looks like we can finally get enough fundindgs to keep old, fully recovered patients in the hospital. We can't go on forever begging an old man like you to pretend to be mentally ill, you know. Hahaha ha."
The chief-of-staff laughed a hollow laugh, then stopped, noticing that Kinjiro was silent. He looked embarrassed.
"Doctor!" Shimada came running in, panicked. He was furious.
He fixed a stern gaze downward at the chief-of-staff, standing menacingly over him. "Is it true that you told the press that the Shogun has recovered completely?"
The chief-of-staff's face grew taut. "Why are you so animated, Mr. Shimada?"
"Where are the reporters?"
"They just left."
"When did you say the Shogun recovered completely?"
"Well, I said yesterday."
The doctor turned around to run out to the hallway.
"Where are you going?" asked the chief-of-staff in a loud voice.
Just before reaching the door the doctor looked back and cried, "I'll catch the reporters and tell them the truth. That he recovered ten years ago."
The chief-of-staff got up to his feet and thundered, "How dare you fool!"
"Fool? You are calling me a fool?" The doctor cried back in rage. "Outrageous! Haven't you ever thought about his feelings? The reporters stopped coming. So you came to the conclusion that you'd exhausted all the utility that was left in him. For you the only thing left to do was to draw the attention of the press by spreading the news of his recovery, collecting interview fees and using this last oppotunity to promote yourself. That's exploitation! The same trick they use in a brothel."
"Could you be more careful in your choice of words?" The chief-of-staff said in a conciliatoty tone as if to pacify the angry doctor. "You misunderstand me. I'll explain the situation later. I'll take your interests into account, too. So don't get so mad."
Still unable to calm his excitement, the doctor walked around the room snorting. "You make decisions on your own about interviews without informing me, who is the doctor in charge. Like today, you didn't let me know about the whole thing on purpose, because you didn't want me to get in your way. Isn't that right, Doctor?"
"Calm down for a minuite." With a wry smile on his face the chief-of-staff explained. "In a couple of days the city congress will start discussions on the next year's budget. Which means that this is an opportune time to score some public relations points by offering the press some news material. The chief-of-staff's job involves much more than simply being a good doctor. Please understand that."
"So, you are saying..." Kinjiro started to mumble to himself. "You are saying that my acting was lousy. You didn't like my acting, huh?"
Startled by his voice, the chief-of-staff and Shimada looked at each other.
Kinjiro began talking to the wall. "My acting was after all too poor to keep people interested. And that's why the number of reporters decreased gradually. I see." He sniveled. "I set my mind to do my best in enacting a madman. I devoted myself to it because that was my only purpose in life. But I was no good. Noboby thought I was funny. I was hurt again. I'm useless now. Yes. Faking madness is much harder than you may think." He looked utterly dejected.
"Not at all." The chief-of-staff comforted him. "Your acting was uncannily true to life. You could have beaten a real lunatic. In fact it was so good that you made me worried many times that your madness might have come back again.""Yes, your acting was amazingly true to life." The doctor got excited again. "You say people weren't interested,people didn't laugh. Not at all. You had such humor, such wonderful humor. Then why didn't anyone laugh?" He paced back and forth with his eyes gleaming. "Before people all over Japan laughed at your madness. Now they don't laugh any more. Why? It's because the society we have now is the kind of society where you can't laugh at lunatics any more. Yes. That's right." He hopped around the room as if overjoyed with his discovery and kept talking, spitting all over the place. "A person who can laugh at a lunatic is a sane one, and a society which can laugh at madness is also a sane one. But now we have a society that's gone mad. How can you possibly find anyone in such a society who can laugh at a madman? You can't. If the whole society has gone mad, how could you possibly laugh at a madman? It's a society that's gone mad. Yes! That's right. Hahaha. Hahahahahahahaha. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha."
The doctor's laughter reverberated throughout the hospital.
"I see. That could be a possibility." Kinjiro got up slowly. "But is it truly the case? There is another possibility, though. Would you like to hear?" Drawing his face closer to the doctor's, he spoke as if to sqeeze his voice from the bottom of his chest. "There is another possibility, which is that I was really Shogun. Now I'm a madman but when I was normal I was truly Shogun! Shogun Ashihara really existed, he who commanded the army and navy, had real political power, and had control over the military budget. Yes! That's got to be the truth!" Kinjiro shouted,his eyes twinkling. "And he was me! You are now trying to trick me into thinking that nothing's wrong with my mind. But I was really Shogun. Insanity is eating up my mind now and that's why you put me in this mental hospital. But when I was sane I was Shogun! Hahahahahahahahahaha." He exploded with laughter. "Now I'm back to normal, back to my original identity, which is Shogun Ashihara. Again I dictate the affairs of the Empire, issue edicts, shoot cannons, and run around the battle fields! I'll bucher Russian soldiers and Chinks. I'll shower the entire world with bullets, cannon balls, and bombs. I'll make the whole world wallow in bloodbaths! Assault! Advance! Advance! Never retreat! Hahahahaha. Hahahahahahahahahahaha."
"He's gone mad!" Falling flat on his buttocks on the tatami mat, the doctor looked up at Kinjiro, dazed. "The cycle has come around. The depressive phase turned out to be much shorter than the manic one."
"Gone mad? Can it be true? Has he really gone mad again?" The chief-of-staff muttered to himself gazing at Kinjiro who kept laughing. His gaze betrayed a bit of envy.
"That's right. He had to go mad. He had no other choice but escape into his madness. I understand his feelings." Slowly turning his head toward the chief-of-staff, Shimada asked, "A war broke out several years after he had first symptoms of mental disorder. Am I correct?"
There was a moment of silence before the chief-of-staff finally said, "That's correct."
The doctor looked up at Kinjiro again. "Which means weare going to war pretty soon."
Bathed full-face by the westerly sun, Kinjiro, now Shogun again, kept laughing and laughing, his Shoki-like expression revealing the joy of returning to sanity, the hair on his face swaying with his laughter.